World Mythology; in Bite-Sized Chunks, by Mark Daniels 2016, is a guide to the stories behind the tradition of legends around the world. This book follows my research into the Northern American Plains, as there is a chapter dedicated to the myths of the culture.
Daniels explains that the Plains were inhabited from at least 10000 BC, and the people spread themselves across North and South America, within civilizations flourishing at different times. American Indian Mythology is based on a deep spiritual balance with nature and the land. Animals are a major influence within the traditions, with the belief that all living things have individual spirits belonging to the collective spirit of the earth. Animals belong to the land, and therefore hunters thanked the spirits when killing life for food.
The myths of the Plains held important lessons for the American Indians. One of the most popular was ‘The White Buffalo Woman’ who was also named Pteskawin, and acts as the bringer of virtues to the tribe. Daniels describes the story beginning at a time where there was little food within the land. There were two young hunters who left the tribe at dawn to hunt for food to bring back to their people. The hunters had no success, and as they were climbing a hilltop saw a bright light come toward them from the horizon. This was Pteskawin, a beautiful woman in a white hide. The first of the hunters was naïve and approached Pteskawin, entranced by her beauty. The other was more intelligent asking the first hunter to respect her spirituality. It was too late for the hunter as Pteskawin and a white cloud embraced and enveloped the man, turning him into bones on the ground. Pteskawin instructed the remaining hunter to return to the tribe and tell them of her imminent arrival. The tribe were waiting in a Tepee when Pteskawin entered and started to walk around the circumference following the direction of the sun. She stood before the chief and gave him a sacred Chanunpa (smoking pipe) carved with symbols of the earth, buffalo, forest and the birds. It acted as a tool for important rituals within the tribe, with the smoke bringing members closer to the spiritual world. Pteskawin was known to leave the tribe by turning into a buffalo, bowing to the four directions of the earth and disappear back into the horizon. Many of the symbols seen within the story are still of importance to the culture today, including the use of the pipe, communal lodges, following the direction of the sun and the buffalo as a resource.
The Wily Coyote is another myth central to American Indian Culture. The Coyote was wondering across the Plains with his friend Iktome (the spider spirit) when they came across a huge rock. Coyote recognised that there was life within the rock and saw that this was the spirit Iya. Coyote took off the blanket he was wearing and placed it over the rock to keep it warm, then carried on their travels. The weather become rainy and cold and Coyote regretted his earlier morality wishing back the blanket. Coyote reconsidered the usefulness of a blanket to a rock, and ordered the spider to retrieve it. The spider was unsuccessful and so Coyote yanked the blanket from the rock’s back himself. The two friends carried on their journey contently, but then heard a rumble from the ground. From the horizon they could see the great rock Iya rolling towards them and the friends fled. The spider was able to get away from danger by rolling himself into a ball and disappearing into a small hole, whilst wily was flattened. This legend also punishes for the disregard of sacred things, and illustrated the spirit which the American Indians saw within all objects of the land. Iya was seen as the storm god, and gives an explanation for natural disasters as a punishment for the sins of Coyote. The story also teaches genuine generosity in which all tribesmen should replicate.
The value of these stories are still prominent in American Indian culture today, and hold a different power to influence than that of Snap Chat stories which are just forgotten after a number of seconds. It would be interesting to combine the strong visual imagery seen within both myths, with messages from digital folklores and provide a response to each.This research is also in line with the possible creation of a Tepee with my embroidered works forming the side panels.
Here is a link to how to make a Tepee (children sized)